Inventions of the 80s

Imagine this: You’re at Cape Canaveral waiting to watch a Space Shuttle launch. You have a great view since you recently ditched your crappy glasses for brand new contacts. On your drive over to the coast you played through your new CD collection- Duran Duran, Madonna, Depeche Mode, and Aerosmith. On the way back you might listen to some Michael Jackson or Poison. If you’re feeling extra sullen, maybe you’ll put on The Cure or The Smiths. Hoping to capture the trip, you brought along a disposable camera, a cheap investment for life-long memories. Your mind drifts to your new PC sitting back at home. While you’re excited to see the shuttle launch, you’re also excited to peruse the manual of the PC you just bought. After all, you’re one of your first friends to finally get one. Now if only you could figure out how to type in commands to make it work…

Does this sound outdated? If it does–you’re right. This imaginary scene was set in the 80s. At the time, everything mentioned above was new to the market. Other inventions of the time included the nicotine patch, Prozac, HDTVs, DNA fingerprinting, and a (permanent) artificial heart.

In list form, here are 10 Inventions from the 80s and some of their details:


1. Space Shuttles
-“Orbiting scientific laboratory capable of hosting numerous experiments designed to increase our understanding of the universe.”
-Inspired by the lunar missions of the ’60s and ’70s
-First launch was Colombia on April 12, 1981
-There have been 130 launches since the first in April of 1981


2. Disposable Contact Lenses
-Made losing lenses less costly
-Lenses could be disposed of after one use; did not require regular cleaning and care like previous lenses


3. Compact Discs
-Revolutionized the music industry
-Easier to store than vinyl albums and did not degrade over time (like cassettes and 8 tracks)

DC 14

4. Disposable Cameras
-Cornered the tourism industry; perfect for traveling/travelers
-Cheap and easy to use. Taking photographs no longer required a huge investment.


5. Personal Computers (IBM and Macintosh)
-IBM was synonymous with personal computers in the 1980s; ancestor to the Windows-based PC used today
-Apple launched the Macintosh, the first personal computer to use a graphics-based user interface (used icons to represent programs and featured a mouse)
-Most computers required users to type in commands to launch programs

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Speak & Spell


The popular ’80s toy, the Speak & Spell, was an educational toy designed to teach kids how to spell words. It made its debut into the world in 1978, but peaked among the youth until the early ’90s. It was everything a parent could hope for in a toy: it educated children while they thought they were playing a game!

How does it work though? The Speak & Spell would speak a word and then ask the player to spell that word. You then would proceed to spell out that word using the keyboard, and following your anticipation, the “game” would let you know if you were correct or not.

The toy even had mini-games that came with the console such as “Mystery Word,” which worked like a game of Hangman.

Kids loved the fact that this toy could literally talk back to them, as other similar games invented prior did not have that capability. Commercials began to appear on TV…

One even featured Mr. Bill Cosby!:

Speak & Spell became a necessity for every 80s household, and we started to see it featured in popular movies and songs. For example, the Speak & Spell is what our favorite little alien E.T. used to “phone home!” (Noteworthy: Mary saying “Ouuuuuch”)


He makes a makeshift communicator to talk to his family on his home planet, and here we see the famous Speak & Spell as a key component of it, because, how else would you contact life on another planet?!

Similarly, we see the Speak & Spell makes a (slightly horrifying) appearance in the third installment of the Poltergeist series, Poltergeist III, starring the late Heather O’Rourke in 1988. Before the spirits come out to mess with her, she is playing with her Speak & Spell.
Now, the Speak & Spell is still around for newer generations, with an iPhone/iPad app!
Not quite the same, but still cool.
You’re welcome.


HIV/AIDS in the 1980s

The history of HIV/AIDS goes far back to the early 20th century when the first leap of the virus is hypothesized to have transferred to a human from primates in Africa. However, the issue of HIV/AIDS did not fully hit America until the 1980s. Once it did, though, the virus became a mysterious, lurking predator that struck fear into the public.

The first case was observed clinically in 1981. It primarily arose in injecting drug users and homosexual men. These patients were observed to have severely diminished immune systems. In particular, a rare skin cancer, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, and an opportunistic infection, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, appeared to accompany the HIV/AIDS.

The disease remained so elusive, however, it took until 1986 for the name Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to be given to it.

Once identified, the disease took on a significant role in shaping society and cultures of the time.

For instance, the fear of infection which accompanied this epidemic resulted in people ostracizing and discriminating against those infected. This was also a result of the public viewing the disease in association with life styles which were frowned upon at the time such as homosexuality, drug use, and promiscuity.  This idea began to be changed when Ryan White became a poster child for the disease. He was diagnosed with the infection in 1984 and contracted it through a contaminated blood treatment for his hemophilia. More stories about the campaign that Ryan White sparked and other stories can be found here.

Many stars of the 1980s became involved in the campaign against HIV/AIDS, as well. Micheal Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor, for example, were very involved.

Here is a video of Micheal Jackson devoting a song to Ryan White and the fight against AIDS. Although this video is from the 1990’s it is a reflection of his experiences from the 1980s — particularly his time with Ryan White.

Here is a video of Elizabeth Taylor speaking about HIV/AIDS, too. I found this particularly interesting because she discusses many of the stigmas attached to it from the time.

Also as a consequence of HIV/AIDS rising prevalence, it began to be a topic of many movies in the late 1980s.


Image of As Is


Image of Go Toward the Light


Image of Longtime Companion

More movies on HIV/AIDS can be seen here.

If you are interested in the science behind AIDS here is a great video that explains it very thoroughly.


Advances in Genetics — 1980s

Genetics has undergone incredible advancements throughout the years. Every decade produced its own key elements that make up the genetic knowledge we have today – including the 1980s. The following are summaries of what have been referenced as the most important of these genetic advancements of the 1980s along with brief descriptions and some fun videos.

1. Methods for mapping DNA

In 1980, Paul Berg, Walter Gilbert, and Frederick Sanger were awarded a Nobel Prize for having devised a method to map the structure of DNA.  This allowed scientists to determine base sequences of nucleic acids (the fundamental building blocks of the genome). The award was also for the use of this knowledge to construct recombinant DNA with circles of DNA known as plasmids. Here is a video on how it works!

2. First U.S patent for gene cloning

In 1980, Stanley Norman Cohen and Herbert Boyer received the first patent for a gene. The way this was accomplished was through the use of plasmids with foreign DNA incorporated into their structure to produce specific proteins of interest such as HGH, Erythropoietin and Insulin. Not only did the patent earn about 300 million $, but this is a technique that has become common place and essential in labs. Also, in 1982, this genetically engineered human insulin was approved by the FDA.

3.Transposons – mobile genetic elements

In 1983, Barbara McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize for her research regarding mobile genetic elements referred to as transposons. Eventually, this information would be used to understand mutations that result from transposons which often arise when these sequences insert within the middle of an important gene.

4. Polymerase chain reactions

In 1983, Kary Mullis devised a method for amplifying DNA using a cloning procedure called polymerase chain reactions (PCR). This technique allows a small amount of DNA to be amplified exponentially into many copies permitting a greater ability to study sequences of interest. Check out this awesome video!

5.Genetic fingerprinting

In 1985, Alex Jeffrey created DNA fingerprinting. This is a method that uses the unique small sequences of DNA, mini-satellites, within an individual’s genome as a means for identifying them (a DNA fingerprint). The strands of DNA are submitted to a specific endonuclease that will cut corresponding fragments of mini-satellites out. These pieces are separated through electrophoresis to create a unique set of bands that can be matched to a person.

6. Genes for color blindness and color vision identified

In 1986, Jeremy Nathens identified the genes responsible for color vision and color blindness. The identification of specific genes in relation to disease states becomes significant in understanding and treating various inherited diseases such as Progeria, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

Can you see the numbers?

7. Identification of RNA as a catalyst

In 1989, Thomas Cech discovered that RNA is capable of acting as a catalyst. This not only unveiled the significance of DNA that previously the function of was not known, but also led to many elucidating hypothesizes regarding the origin of life potentially arising from an originally RNA based form.

The 1980s car obsession

So it seems that a rather alarmingly large number of television shows and movies that came out in the 1980s revolved around a car. We’ve already explored the fact that a teen movie without a minor role being played by an automobile did not exist. The Ferrari in Ferris, the Rolls Royce in Sixteen Candles (two in that movie actually if you count Jake’s Porsche), the Yellow bug in Footloose, ect.

I find this pretty strange because its not like the automobile was a new invention… there had been decades of bigger- than-boat cars before the 80s. I think the most bizarre example of this trend was the Knight Rider. We didn’t have cable when I was a kid so I watched what ever was the antenna could pick up and a gem I remember vividly from my childhood was a TV show that starred David Hasselhoff and his chest hair


Here is the weird thing…. in my memory the car was totally a girl and most likely David Hasselhoff’s girlfriend. In my memory it went something like this:

Her name was KITT. She had a weirdly electronic but sultry voice and flashing red lights. Her body was sick. He was a lucky man.


She kind of nagged him a lot, but when she was pissed she went into her special crazy “attack mode” and then you had better watch out.


She meant business and she didn’t mess around when it came to her man.

This is not right…. memories are fickle weird things that are obviously bad with facts. So KITT was a man. I went back and watched some youtube clips and learned this the hard way. Definitely a man. The voice is a bit feminine but that might just be the English accent. So my whole memory of this show is very strange now because maybe KITT and the Hoff were just buddies? I find this super disappointing, but regardless there was a television show that essentially starred David Hasselhoff’s hair and a black sports car…. It does not get weirder than that.

Take a look at a great example of the love affair that was Michael and KITT:



80’s Fads

The Magic Cube; six-sided, multicolored puzzle that we have come to know as the Rubik’s  Cube. Meant to twist your mind into a pretzel. Some people take hours, some take minutes, and others in seconds. The Rubik’s cube is meant to test your mind and challenge your mind in ways that your mind has never been challenged before.


Super Mario Bros was one of the most popular games in the 80’s and it has carried it’s legacy into this generation. Mario was designed in 1981 and he has been seen now in over 200 games. Everyone knows who Mario is because he is such a cool character. He is one of the most well-known characters in the world, recognized all over the world. The Mario franchise has sold over 210 million units and is the best selling video game franchise in the world. If I can find the time to play Super Mario Bros I most definitely would. It’s a great game.

A 500-Point Run!

The Pogo Ball, invented in 1987 was a very popular toy to have as a kid in this time era. It’s like a pogo stick in the sense that you jump around with it but obviously, instead of a stick, its a ball. Easy enough. This toy is great for your cardio vascular endurance. It also helps increase your balance. A great toy to keep the kids active. I wish more kids would use the pogo ball because the U.S has become such an obese society. Toys like the pogo ball are a lot better than video games, which is what they generation has come to know and love. With all the technological enhancements in the world, kids now have video games, iPads, phones, computers. Kids can literally stay inside of their house all day and be completely satisfied because of all the technology that’s been created. It is something I’ve never seen before.

group pogo

A Gentlemen’s bet! HuZZAH!

The Tale of the Tape:

Louis Winthorpe III and Billy Ray Valentine vs. Mortimer and Randolph Duke

Having lived a privileged life, Louis, more commonly referred to as Winthorpe by the Duke brothers, has not encountered much adversity and runs the commodities firm for the Dukes. After Billy, a con man from the streets played by Eddie Murphy, knocks over Winthorpe, Dan Aykroyd, and goes to hand back Louis’ briefcase, he freaks out saying he is being mugged and calls for the police, a harmless action misinterpreted.

Billy runs around with the briefcase through the ritzy restaurant where the Duke brothers see him being arrested and come up with a wager: Billy can run the company just as well as Winthorpe

Billy tries to act all hard for the guys who are harassing him by stating he is a black belt and he is just waiting for his ladies to bail him out of jail.

The Duke brothers pay for Billy’s release and tell them of their intensions and setup Winthorpe to be arrested! BUM BUM BUM!

This starts his downward spiral to get back Billy after hitting rock bottom

Billy and Winthorpe devise a plan that makes them rich while bankrupting the Duke brothers and insert a HILARIOUS train sequence that involves interspecies relationships with a gorilla and boom! You got yourself a comedy, “Right BILLY RAY?!”



“Oh see, I made Louis a bet here. Louis bet me we both couldn’t get rich and put y’all in the poor house at the same time, he didn’t think we could do it. I won.”

“I lost… ONE dollar!”

“Thank you Louis.”


Who you gonna call?


There is no doubt that this 1984 supernatural comedy film has become popular throughout the world. The tale of these three unemployed professors who go on to catch ghosts in the city of New York  is a success in using these two genres to entertain the people at the time.

When I chose to watch this movie, I had no idea how funny or entertaining it would be. I always thought that it looked corny. However, the blend of special effects and comedy really makes this film a fun movie to watch.

Bill Murray’s first big role

I was a little confused when the essence of evil took form into a giant marshmallow man, but it still managed to work for the film, and essentially, set it apart from all the other films at this time.

Marshmallow of evil

In addition, with the success of the movie, came the success of one of the most famous songs in the 80’s. As the line goes, “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” really portrays the true success of the film. Everyone is similar with that phrase.

With the release of the movie, the release of the main theme of the movie came out. Ray Parker Jr., the composer of the music for this film, actually had a lot of trouble writing the theme for this film. The issue was resolved when he saw an advertisement on television. He wanted the song to take a catchy tune like advertisements did. As a result, the song was #1 on the charts for 3 weeks straight.

Theme song

The success of Ghostbuster’s continues on even today. The theme for the music can still be heard on the radio, at theme parks, etc. The movie was even able to get a show to come about about after the movie was made. Universal Studios even had a show dedicated to the movie that visitors can go see when visiting the parks.

Show Intro

Consequently, this film was so successful in the 80’s that even today we are aware of Ghostbusters.

Is This A Game…Or Is It Real?

Now I understand why Ferris needed to take a day off.

Before he was stealing Ferraris and reservations in Chicago, Matthew Broderick came close to instigating World War Three as teen hacker David Lightman in WarGames (1983). Honestly, the characters start off pretty similar: high school slackers who butt heads with authority figures, and who hack into the school system to make themselves look better. David however does not stop there; he loves his computer (unlike Ferris), and uses it to try to hack into a game company’s system to get information on a revolutionary upcoming game. Instead though, he accidentally stumbles onto a military system and starts a strategy war game with the computer, who is self teaching and who won’t stop playing until the game is over.

Before we are even introduced to David though, a cold open supplies us with exposition that sets up a deeper meaning of the film. We first meet two government employees (one being Michael Madsen in his first film role) who are instructed to deploy missiles, but fail to do so when the commanding officer loses his nerve. Immediately after this incident the department decides to replace the staff with a computer system that would not hesitate to fire the missiles if need be. It is only after this fourteen and a half minute introduction that we meet our hero. After seeing this, and knowing that it was going to backfire, I expected the film to be a commentary about the issues that arise when we rely too heavily on computers.

However, by the film’s end I realized the real message was much greater than that. The computer (WOPR, pronounced Whopper) puts the US military in a frenzy, as they think the game is real and that the Soviets have launched a full scale attack, and then plan to retaliate. World War Three is imminent as David has to try and end the game; the problem being that WOPR doesn’t understand the concept of having a game with no possible winner. Finally (Spoiler Alert) David is able to overload the system, and it lays out every possible war scenario and spits out the same message: Winner – None.

Suddenly the message is much more clear: there are no winners in global thermonuclear war. The message appears time and time again; it is beaten into the audience’s brain. And if that weren’t enough, the computer displays this message saying that “THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.” Released at a time when the Cold War was still very prevalent, this anti-war statement turned out to be a huge success.

Still, I had to wonder if the film has a lasting effect. The Cold War has been over over two decades; would it still prove as powerful to today’s generation? Personally, I enjoyed the film, but I don’t know if I would hail it as a great movie. Though, war is still a very real problem in today’s world, so I’d think it could work. With a possible reboot being kicked around Hollywood, we should be able to see first hand how successful WarGames would be in today’s world. It’d surely be an interesting film considering how much technology has grown since 1983, and how the conflicts in the Middle East have become like the modern day Cold War.



After seeing Tron: Legacy, I have been wanting to see the 1982 version of Tron for quite some time. Interestingly enough, I always thought that it was ridiculed for its special effects, but the acting and story line was what made it such a cult classic. However, I know now that it’s the exact opposite. The entire movie was essentially a green screen, and the effects that made it so video game-like were astonishing for its time. My personal favorite was when a young Jeff Bridges first becomes part of the game: his entire body turns into a blue grid, and piece by piece he is digitally sucked into his own game. I do wish I had seen the original film first, because I felt like I wouldn’t have as harsh a critique on it if I wasn’t already used to Joseph Kosinski’s digital world of Tron. Once you get used to the graphics of the 1982 film, it really is quite spectacular because you forget what the technology of today can use and you truly appreciate how great the effects were for that time. It was also semi-nostalgic, even though I was not born in the 80’s, I could still tell that the 3-D world of the grid still maintained its classic arcade game style.

On the other hand, it was very hard for me to get “old school Power Rangers” out of my head. Between the clunky costumes and the awkward interactions between all the video game characters, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they made up a couple of one-liners like “Go go Power Rangers!” while jumping through a digital explosion. The bad guys weren’t very believable, because they couldn’t really keep an eye on their opponents for long, and they were easily beat.

When comparing the 1982 and the 2010 version, I personally don’t think that Tron: Legacy blew Tron out of the water. Obviously, people might prefer the newer one because it’s more modern, but there are only a couple of differences that make the newer one a bit more enjoyable, despite the 1982 film being a cult classic. First of all, the soundtrack in the old one reminded me of cartoons, like when Elmer Fudd is going after Bugs Bunny. It was partly childish, like there was no threat of death or defeat going on. Daft Punk did the entire soundtrack for the 2010 version, and I thought it was perfectly in sync with the Tron world. Also, the story line was a bit easier to follow in the newer version. Even with seeing the 2010 version before, I still had difficulty following along in the beginning in Tron. It took me a while to figure out what was what and who was who, while in Tron: Legacy, it was clear from the start, even for somebody who didn’t know much about it beforehand. Overall, I believe both versions are worth seeing for different reasons. The 1982 version is known for its special effects for that time, and I feel like it is one of those films that you have to see in your lifetime, while the 2010 movie is just a good time, with up-to-date graphics and an interesting plot.


James Cameron really out does himself with The Abyss. I honestly had no idea what I was in for when looking at the trailer, but I can say that I am not disappointed. The setting for the movie itself is the best. A lot of people fear the ocean; it’s size, it’s darkness, it’s lack of familiarity. All of these aspects really make it a well done movie.

When this submarine encounters aliens, we know that something new and unexpected is coming to the screen. The pictures, some of the shots, and the situations not only make this film intense, but it also makes it an enjoyable watch.

This movie brings all of people’s fears into play; claustrophobia, death, the unknown, betrayal, etc. Not only does it make it a suspenseful journey to see the outcome of our beloved characters, but it also highlights on emotions that later affect the audience.

James Cameron focuses on all these situations and encounters that people fear, therefore, making The Abyss a haunting and stressful movie experience. But it definitely shows how film making progressed into themes that delved more into human emotions and just advancement in new ideas.

No one ever considered the abilities of going underwater, talking underwater, etc. Cameron wanted to set the level in developing new ideas for the film industry. It was far from being one of his big accomplishments, however, he managed to do something others didn’t even think about doing. That’s what makes this film so enjoyable  to watch. I wish he would have continued making more movies like this instead of Titanic, but oh well.

I found a video of Cameron talking about this movie and I think it really sums up the amount of experience and knowledge he gained from making a movie like this.

I also read that the movie has an alternate ending that is available on one of the DVD’s. Cameron had to change the ending to fit the Hollywood idea of a happy ending; but from what I hear, the original ending is what really makes this movie so distinct from all the other movies in the 80’s. I haven’t seen it, but I definitely plan on it.

Blade Runner: More Human Than Human

Blade Runner’s perspective on human nature is that we long to fully understand our purpose and meaning in life, and that we all are seeking some sort of truth about ourselves and our humanity as a whole. This was particularly evident with the noticeable amount of biblical imagery in the film, such as Roy inserting a nail through his hand and holding a white dove, symbolizing himself as a Christ-like figure.

We also are forced to question ourselves on what makes a human, human. If a man-made artificial being possesses the levels of emotional intelligence and cognition that are equivalent to a human being’s, are they not classified as a human because man created them?

Furthermore, do they deserve to be treated as slaves, beneath the foot of man? All of which are questions we are left to ponder throughout the film. Ultimately, I did not find it all that surprising that despite the overwhelming human like qualities the the replicants had, humanity as a whole still saw them as inferior and slaves to their will. The Humans in Blade Runner wanted to be able to control their technological creations; viewing them as mere tools and nothing more.

Blade Runner’s replicants are robotic entities that are indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye. These replicants, while created for a specific purpose, have an advanced artificial intelligence with cognitive reasoning ability, comparable to that of a human’s. The replicants are identical to humans in nearly every physical aspect. In fact, a replicant’s artificial intelligence and programming are so advanced, that they themselves do not know they are replicants. In the case of Rachel, she was an experimental replicant with implanted memories and was given pictures to reinforce these memories. While in reality, these memories were that of Tyrell’s niece. The replicants even bled and could feel pain, which makes the viewer empathize with their plight even more. These features fully reinforced the Tyrell Corporation’s motto, “More human than human”.


Placing the film into the historical context of the time, in the 80’s we had begun to see a wide scale emergence of Sci-Fi films and culture. The genre was beginning to become more popularized and accepted which lead to a convergence of new ideas. Couple this with the emergence of the personal computer and the ability for the common citizen to own such a revolutionary peace of technology for the first time in human history, it was evident that filmmakers would begin to create visions of the technological future. Sci-Fi culture produced a robot with artificial intelligence and combined it with biochemical engineering, effectively giving birth to the concept of a synthetic human. Naturally this brought about all the moral complications that would arise from such a creation, particularly the issue of what makes something human.

Naturally, the possibility that one-day the machines we created could potentially become self aware and even revolt began to sprout as a seed of paranoia within the 80’s culture. The culmination of this being the Y2K scare that by 2000, there would be a systemic collapse of all technology. Overall, it seems to be one of the qualities of human nature that when you cannot understand something, the majority will develop a fear culture around it, even work against their own creations seeking to have them banned or heavily regulated. This was particularly evident in the film when once the replicants became aware of their existence as machine, their use was made illegal on Earth and they were hunted down and “retired”. In the eyes of humans, it is much more efficient to put down a wild beast, rather than rehabilitate it.

Harrison Ford Shot First(In Blade Runner)